When Reason Fails

During the bush war two of our best friends were teaching at a mission station in the Eastern Highlands. They had given up a great deal to come out to teach at the High School and knew they were coming to a country at war with itself.

One evening a group of armed men arrived and the teaching staff were rounded up and beaten to death. Our friends had a baby with them and she was also brutally killed. The following morning I had to go through to a hostel for boarders in Harare and tell the two other children - both young teenagers, that their parents had been murdered. It was the toughest assignment I have ever had to handle.

On the hillside overlooking the site of the massacre is a small monument placed there by local Christians - it simply says, 'Lord, we do not understand, but we trust you.'

On Friday night, after a tough day in the new government I wrapped up what I had to do and headed home. At six in the evening I was called to be told that Morgan and his wife Susan had been in an accident and were on their way back to Harare. We put things in motion, two ambulances were sent out on the road to meet them and the hospital put on standby and an air ambulance prepared at the airport.

At seven we knew Susan had died and Morgan was admitted to the hospital with minor injuries. I have known and worked with many couples in my life, but few have had the kind of relationship that existed between Morgan and his wife of 31 years. She was a striking woman, deeply religious and a devoted mother. The real affection between the two was clearly evident. Although she played a low key role in her husband's political life, she was his anchor. She ran a great home, was always welcoming and accepted that on any day she might be called upon to feed drivers, security staff and visitors - by the dozen.

One of my colleagues said to me yesterday that she never forgot that he could only drink a diet coke. She always produced one for him when he was at the house. We always thought she would make a superb First Lady of Zimbabwe. All of us are still stunned by the knowledge that she has died and we all feel something of the loss and pain that Morgan must feel at this time.

It now looks as if the accident was just that, a fluke accident with fatal consequences and I feel very sorry for the truck driver who caused the accident because he will have to live with this all his life. I am relieved by that information because had there been anything more to the accident, then this would have threatened the new government and caused widespread violence and retribution. However we are still investigating.

It is impossible to explain why such things are allowed to happen. I personally think that God, having set up the world system as it is with its natural laws and inherent rules for life and accountability, does not intervene to prevent natural consequences except in the most exceptional circumstances. This means we have to learn to live with pain and sorrow. After the death of our friends, my wife was hospitalised for three days and sedated, our own anguish was so severe. Even now, 30 years later, I cannot remember those events without a sense of loss.

In the new government we continue to struggle with the situation we have inherited. Water supplies to the City of Harare failed totally this week - I have yet to discover why. But on Tuesday the Prime Minister was sworn in as a Member of Parliament and on Wednesday we sat at 14.30 hrs to hear his inaugural address. It was a great speech and I would urge you to read it on the new website www.zimbabweprimeminister.org.

Just to wet your appetite for this task, let me look at a few excerpts:

'There can be no viable, permanent or sustainable solution to the problems facing Zimbabwe, without the promotion of the people's freedoms.'

'We must lead by example and respect and uphold the constitution and other laws and the principle of the rule of law.'

'The fact that individuals have been incarcerated for months without trial, smacks of political persecution. This will not be tolerated. Justice must be seen to be done now.'

'There is no room in this House, in this Government or this country, for any individuals or groups that wish to prevent progress and keep us mired in poverty and misery that have come to represent life in Zimbabwe.'

This wide ranging speech, carefully crafted, was delivered in a confident and clear manner as if the Prime Minister had been in Parliament all his life instead of one hour. I was disappointed, but not surprised that the Zanu PF side of the House sat in stony silence except when he called for restrictions imposed by many countries to be lifted. When he said this they suddenly came to life and applauded - as if that was the only issue on the table.

He called for all Members of Parliament to declare their assets and to be open and honest in all their dealings. I will set about doing that this coming week and submit my own declaration to the Clerk of Parliament. It will be fascinating to see the declarations by many of the Zanu PF people.

The death of the Prime Ministers wife will set back our programme a couple of weeks but we will keep the momentum going while he spends time coming to grip with his loss and pain. I remain astonished at the response by everybody in Government to the call to return to work. Four weeks ago I toured my constituency visiting the schools, not one was open and most were completely locked up and empty. On Monday this week, every school was open and children were back in class.

Teachers were only paid US$100 each in February - and yet they responded to the call to return to work. So did nurses and doctors, clerks and other staff. In March we will try to get more to them - our resources are very limited, but even so they will have to work for a pittance. There are not many countries in the world where civil servants would make such a sacrifice.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 9th March 2009